The Blessing of Grandparents
THE WORD OF GOD SAYS NOTHING about the role of grandparents, but it boldly declares the power of their influence. Godly men and women leave a legacy of blessing for generations to come.
“How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed” - Psalm 112:1-2.
Never has this been more graphically illustrated than in the life of Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards (born 1703) was a man wholly devoted to Jesus Christ. At age 17 he married 13 year-old Sarah Pierpont. On their wedding night they committed their marriage to the Lord. By 1900, their descendants included 300 clergymen (pastors, missionaries and theologians), 100 attorneys, 60 judges (one dean of a law school), 60 doctors (one dean of a medical school), 60 authors of fine classics, 100 professors and 14 presidents of universities, 3 mayors of large cities, 3 state governors, a controller of the US Treasury and a Vice-President of America who became President Theodore Rooseveldt.
Just as we can bring blessing upon our descendants, so too we can bring curses upon them.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me”
- Exodus 20:4-5.
Max Dukes (born 1700) was an unbeliever who married an unsaved woman. They neither honoured God nor lived principled lives. Amongst their 1200 known descendants in 1900: 310 were professional vagrants, 440 wrecked their lives by wild living, 130 went to jail (7 for murder, average age 13 years), over 100 became alcoholics, 60 were habitual thieves, 190 prostitutes. Twenty became tradesmen, (10 of whom learned their trade in jail). The researcher who compiled these statistics estimated that Max Dukes’ descendants cost the state of New York $1.5 million.
For better or for worse, grandparents leave a legacy. For some, it’s a legacy of righteousness and blessing. For others, wickedness and brokenness. The figures above only take note of the natural legacies of Edwards and Dukes; they do not factor in their spiritual legacies. It seems obvious that the overwhelming majority of Max Dukes’ descendants did not know Jesus Christ. I strongly suspect that a high proportion of Jonathan Edwards’ descendants, even those who did not become pastors or missionaries, loved and served Jesus. Their respective legacies extend into eternity—eternal life or death.
What makes the difference? If you are a grandparent, how can you bring blessing upon your descendants? The Word of God lays down roles for the husband-wife and the parent-child relationship, but not for the grandparent-grandchild one.
This makes sense because grandparenting roles vary widely. Grandparents range in age from 35-100 (more than half are under 55); they may be in the prime of life or old and frail, may live with their grandchildren or around the globe from them. Their involvement in children’s lives ranges from being surrogate mothers to far-away strangers. Obviously then, we cannot expect all grandparents to play similar roles in children’s lives.
Nevertheless, there are some general roles grandparents can play to ensure they leave a legacy in their descendants’ lives. Chief among them is the role of prayer warriors. Have you heard of Richard Freeman? Probably not. He’s not well-known.
He was an ordinary Christian who committed to pray for every member of his family by name each day. As he grew older and his extended family larger, it would take him more than an hour each day to intercede for each one of them. I’ve never met Richard Freeman, but I know three of his grandchildren—solid, mature, passionate young servants of the Lord whose lives are counting for Christ.
A desperate mother once approached her pastor for counsel. After she poured out her heart about her son’s wayward lifestyle and resistance to the Gospel, and told of her desperate daily prayers and tears for his conversion, he reassured her that her son would be saved. “The child of such prayers,” he explained, “can never be lost.” He was right. The woman’s son was miraculously and radically converted. His name—Augustine, perhaps the most influential Christian in all of Church history. Whether you live near or far, you can shape your grandchildren’s destinies through the power of prayer.
Elderly people make the best intercessors because they are less distracted by the busyness of youth. Grandparents can play the role of storytellers. Stories wield power.
Not only are stories fun, but they also kindle interest, spark creativity, convey wisdom and impart values. God Himself is the supreme storyteller. When He wanted to reveal Himself to us, He chose stories as His preferred way.
Almost 70 percent of the Bible takes the form of stories. Both in the Bible and in the cultures of the world, stories have always been the preferred method of transferring community values. The elders of Israel were master storytellers, educating the children of Israel with tales of great events of their past to give them a sense of their history and their destiny.
Grandparents make wonderful storytellers. They have a wealth of experience from which to harvest stories—factual and fictional, light-hearted and heart-wrenching, some to entertain and others to educate.
Children love stories. Even adults perk up when someone tells a story (I bet you do in church when the preacher begins a story). May grandpa and grandma never lose the art of telling stories that touch young hearts, especially those about godly heroes whose faith in the Lord makes loving and serving Him attractive. Stories like that leave a legacy.
Grandparents should be role models. The only time the word ‘grandmother’ occurs in the Bible, it describes Lois, whose sincere faith lived on in her grandson Timothy - 2 Tim 1:5. The word translated “sincere” is a combination of two Greek words, ‘not’ and ‘hypocritical’. Lois’ deep, genuine faith in God translated into a lifestyle honouring to Him. Sincere faith is contagious; Timothy caught it! Thanks in no small measure to his grandmother’s example, he became a mighty man of God.
Grandparents can exert great influence by the power of a godly example. In centuries past, grandfathers used to be domineering and dictatorial family rulers, using their wealth and estate to manipulate and control their families. Thank the Lord, that those days are gone. Today Godly grandparents wield a different form of power—the power of example.
They are living models of His love, gentleness and compassion, symbols of His faithfulness, examples of His goodness.
The final role of grandparents I want to touch on is that of wise confidants. In Biblical times, wisdom was associated with mature age (how strange…not with teenagers). The reason for this was simple: The more experience you had of real life, the better equipped you were to offer life-counsel. The older generation knew their world best. During the twentieth century, rapid technological changes reversed this—the older you were, the less in touch with the world you were likely to be.
Grandparents’ status fell from valuable members of the community whose insights were sought after to out-of-touch has-beens with nothing left to contribute.
Current research shows a positive reversal of this trend. Today’s young adults are more willing to consult grandparents for advice than their parents were.
In one study, 80 percent of teenagers indicated that they viewed their grandparents as confidants. They may not know how to solve your internet problem, but they know a thing or two about life and love, joy and sorrow, success and failure.
How wonderful that the younger generation are once again starting to treat their elders as resources, reservoirs of wisdom.
Grandparents bring blessing in many other roles they play too. They may be family historians, passing on valued traditions. Some are household negotiators, representing children’s interests to parents.
Others are playmates, still others are listening ears, and in a society ravaged by divorce and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, many have to take up responsibilities as caregivers or even surrogate parents.
This I know: If you love and serve the Lord with all your heart, your life can continue to bear fruit in your grandchildren’s lives. They are part of your legacy.
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” - Psalm 92:12-14.